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Cougars enjoy another big moment in Millington Gym

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Munford guard Kylan Cunningham shouts to a teammate to look for a pass Friday night in Millington as he tries to get pass Trojan guard Bryce Mattox.

Munford guard Kylan Cunningham shouts to a teammate to look for a pass Friday night in Millington as he tries to get pass Trojan guard Bryce Mattox.

Basketball Munford v MillingtonThe 2017-18 Munford Cougars are out to prove a season can have more than one turning point.
And the sight for both pivotal moments for the Cougars took place in the William Osteen Gymnasium. In December, Munford made the trip to participate in the William Osteen Christmas Tournament. It was then Cougars Head Coach Ryan Ross lit a fire underneath his players and challenged them to raise up their level of play.
Ross tried to elevate his team after a 54-39 loss Dec. 15 to rival the Millington Trojans. Friday night the Cougars had a chance to avenge that defeat traveling to the William Osteen Gymnasium to play the Trojans.
The contest played out like a traditional Cougars/Trojans thriller with Munford pulling out a 54-47 overtime victory.
“It took a lot of toughness,” Ross said. “And that was toughness we didn’t have earlier on in the season. We didn’t have that toughness to win that game earlier on in the year. This group has kept working. A lot of people  have counted them out but we’ve kept working.
“They’ve keep their heads up and came to work every single day,” he added. “Tonight we were tough enough. We’ve won three in a row. We’ve won 4 out of our last 6. We’ve got some real good momentum going into district play Tuesday night.”
The rivalry win kept the positive momentum for the Cougars going heading into District 13-3A play throughout January and February.
Munford came into the Millington game focused building a 21-19 halftime lead. The Cougars increased their advantage to 34-23 by the end of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter Munford’s lead grew to 36-23 after Landon Winter drove to the rim for a bucket.
“Millington, Coach (Jewell) Gates, they’re so tough,” Ross said. “They never give up. And I try to tell them after we stretched that thing out to 12 or 13, ‘They’re not going to give up boys. You’ve got to keep fighting.’”
The Trojans’ resolve started with a Jonathan Mattox jumper. That shot sparked a 14-3 run for Millington.
During that stretch the Trojans got baskets from Kaveyon Lewis, Hunter Klutts and Bobby Macklin. Macklin’s layup made the score 39-34. Then with 2:34 remaining in regulation, Klutts made a steal and hit a bucket drawing a foul. The Klutts’ three-point play made the score 39-37.
Munford made the score 41-37 after a couple of free throws from Kylan Cunningham. Mattox came up clutch again hitting another shot trimming the deficit in half.
The score became deadlock at 41-41 when Klutts made a basket in the lane with a minute left on the clock in the fourth quarter. Neither team could score in the final moments of regulation ending the game to overtime.
The extra period began with Cougar James Farrow continuing to attack the boards for rebounds. He was able to collect a couple of fouls going to the line making all four free throw attempts.
“James Farrow did an outstanding job on the glass tonight,” Ross noted. “He was incredible. This group has bought into defense being our thing. That’s our niche. That’s how we’re going to win in district.”
The score was 45-44 in favor of Munford early in the overtime. Then the Cougars closed out the game with a 9-3 run including Winter free throws and 6 points from Kyree Cunningham.
“I’m just so happy for these guys,” Ross said. “For them to fight through that adversity they faced tonight and come together to get through it, I’m do happy for them.”
Ross left the William Osteen Gymnasium with a smile of relief Friday night. Just two weeks earlier he exited the building with more confidence his players have been validating closing out 2017 and starting 2018.
“I thought the last few weeks, we were going to either make it or break it,” he acknowledged. “We were either going to fight through it or lay it down. To their credit, they started fighting. To their credit the past few weeks before practice and after practice we have guys staying to put in extra work.
“We’ve got some real leadership coming along with the Twins and James Farrow,” Ross concluded. “It’s amazing when that starts to happen, what can happen for the team. I’m tough on them and everyone knows I’m tough on them. But I hope everyone knows I love them as well and I couldn’t be more proud of them tonight.”

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